Flapping ears, rippling jowls, wild eyes bulging, and fur and dribble flying everywhere. Carli Davidson captures 61 wet dogs mid-shake for her new book, with a collection of photos that are as revealing as they are entertaining…
The photographs were partly inspired by Eadweard Muybridge, who in 1878, captured horses in motion to prove that they lift all four legs off the ground at once as they run, by photographing the action that occurs too quickly for the human eye to perceive.
It was also inspired by Davidson’s dog, Norbert, who she began photographing after observing him continually stretching and shaking whist attempting to find the most comfortable spot on his bed.
She started the series in 2011, and took the final image for the publication a few months ago. The book presents two images of each dog side by side, like two frames of a film, to show the animal’s movement.
She shot the majority of the book on a Nikon D4 camera, shooting at ten frames per second, which was key considering each shake lasts only a few seconds. “The photos are a reminder that the external is transitory,” says Davidson. “That superficial thoughts about the appearance of a person or animal are based on how they look at any one moment, or from different angles.”
The contorted, warped features of the dogs often mean they appear unrecognisable or cartoon-like, with the tiny, unseen details of this common gesture accentuated. She says that with the images, she is aiming to challenge our understanding of the familiar, and that although the concept is not meant to be dark, “by capturing awkward expressions, some of the photos make the dogs look more like monsters than the friends we see every day.”
Building a relationship with the dogs was important, allowing them to feel a certain amount of control and comfort, being patient, and assessing what would best cause the movement that she was after. Sometimes she would sprinkle droplets of water onto the dog’s head, scratch it’s ears, rub with a towel, or blow on it gently.
“Animals work 100% on instinct; you can’t trick them, so if you are not committed to the shoot they won’t perform,” she says. “So much about working with animals is about being in the moment with them, listening to their needs and directing the shoot as you go. This is similar with people, but we can just ask people what they need. One of my favorite differences about working with animals is that I never have to worry about an animal not liking the way they look.”
Of course, if you go on YouTube you’ll find hundreds of videos of dogs shaking – not least this from Pleix (thanks @BENCOLLIERMARSH)